APEC SMEs Ministers Conclude Meeting

Bandar Seri Begawan – The APEC SMEs ministers concluded their two-day
meeting in Singapore yesterday and adopted a Joint Ministerial
Statement, which highlighted the progress of all the work APEC has done
since they last met in Chiclayo, Peru in 2008.

Aligned to the major theme of the meeting “Helping SMEs Access
Global Markets and Overcome Trade Barriers”, the ministers discussed
issues relating to “Developing market research and market access
capabilities” and how to “Help our SMEs position for growth after the
crisis”. The ministers had also given support to the efforts in “the
implementation of the APEC SMEWG Strategic Plan”.

Under the work to help SMEs access global markets and overcome trade
barriers, the Ministers agreed to the proposal to carry out a
feasibility study on the establishment of an APEC SME Market Research
and Capability Development Centre (SMRC) to serve as a regional enabler
to assist SMEs to access global markets by bringing together all APEC
initiatives and programmes, as a platform for joint business
collaboration, and more importantly, provide regional market research
and market intelligence and develop core market access capabilities.

Brunei Darussalam will participate in this feasibility study, which
is expected to conclude by June 2010 after which a recommendation will
be submitted in the next APEC SMEs Ministerial Meeting.

The ministers welcomed Singapore’s APEC Business Fellowship, an
in-market executive training programme that is designed to expose the
SMEs to practical business practices.

Other initiatives, which the ministers supported, include the
“Workshop on developing trading houses for strengthening SMEs global
market network” and the “Study on export technical assistance models”.

Brunei Darussalam supported all these initiatives in light of its
own drive to help the SMEs venture out in the global market
particularly through building their capacities to compete and benefit
from the opportunities.

On helping SMEs position for growth after the crisis, the ministers
welcomed continuing efforts to resist protectionism. The ministers
attached importance to the efforts to improve such as the ease of doing
business and supply chain connectivity. The ministers also welcomed the
“Principles and Checklist of Financial Crisis Management for APEC
SMEs”, which would also be of practical use to Brunei Darussalam’s SMEs
in addressing the crisis preparedness and in developing response

On addressing the challenges posed by the H1N1 pandemic, the
ministers welcomed workshop to train trainers to increase SMEs

The ministers also welcomed establishment of APEC SME Crisis
Management Centre, which is to coordinate expertise from APEC members
to provide SMEs with value-added services in crisis monitoring,
consultation, training and analysis.

Brunei Darussalam expressed its support to all these work that would
indeed help SMEs to be more prepared and resilient in times of crisis.

On implementing the strategic plan, the ministers encouraged that
all projects be aligned to the six following priority areas which
include Enhancing Business Environment, Building Management
Capabilities and Promoting Entrepreneurship, Market Access and
Internationalisation, Irmovation, Financing and Awareness of
Sustainable Business Practices.

In this regard, the ministers agreed with the idea to assign
economies to champion the implementation of those priority areas such
as Business Environment (Malaysia, Mexico), Management Capability and
Entrepreneurship (Chinese Taipei; Thailand), Market Access and
Internationalisation (China, Singapore), Innovation (Korea, Peru, USA)
and Financing (Indonesia, Japan).

The ministers welcomed Japan’s offer to host next year’s APEC SME
Ministerial Meeting in Gifu City, Japan, in 2010 with the theme
“Strategy for Reinvigorating Economic Growth with Dual Engines: SME and
Asia-Pacific Economy” with the following three sub-themes: Improving
business environment for SMEs; Enhancing business support programmes
for SMEs; and Facilitating SMEs innovation and access to global markets.

Brunei Darussalam’s delegation to the Meeting was headed by Dato
Paduka Hj Hamdillah bin Hj Abdul Wahab, the Deputy Minister of Industry
and Primary Resources.

At the Meeting, the Deputy Minister of Industry and Primary
Resources shared some of the initiatives that have been developed and
implemented in Brunei Darussalam to create an enabling environment for
SMEs to take on the export markets. Several incentives were offered to
local SMEs ready to export including: Introduction of export financing
schemes; Exposing and promoting SMEs through the SME promotion
programmes; Encour aging and facilitating SMEs in having JV with
foreign companies and creating export-based Brunei Halal Framework by
partnering with foreign companies and institutions.

The Deputy Minister of Industry and Primary Resources also shared
that Brunei Darussalam was affected by H1N1, on one hand, and on the
other, not as badly affected by the global downturn largely due to the
fact that it is an economy largely dependent on Government Spending and
Oil and Gas Export. Many infrastructural Public and Private Sector
investment projects were launched recently making Brunei less
vulnerable to these external shocks.

The construction industry was starting to pick up, spearheaded by
the construction of an export-based methanol plant which started in
2007, resumption of highway projects and infrastructure projects
related to the ambitious plan by the government to address immediately
the issue of food security, by being more self-sufficient in rice and
other food commodities. The Government has also launched several other
initiatives like:

Export-based Brunei Halal Brand and the AgroTech Park at Rimba,
Housing Projects to give every Bruneian an ownership of a home and the
plan to build a Deep Water Port and an integrated Industrial Complex in
Pulau Muara Besar.

All these would result in stronger economy and domestic demand for
credit and financing. All these would also offer huge business
opportunities for our fledgling SMEs whilst providing the necessary
backbone to Brunei’s ambition to develop and grow Islamic Financial

To complement all the initiatives, the Deputy Minister also shared
on the initiative in commercialising the Heart of Borneo (HoB) project
through an integrated eco-Tourism package on the Island of Borneo with
Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia and Kalimantan in Indonesia. Brunei will
also leverage on its excellent position as one of the top five
countries in the world with most forestry coverage through Carbon
Trading. These will not only benefit our green SMEs and our rural
community but also lend a hand in our global fight against climate
change. — Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin